At the annual State of the Schools event in October, Hilliard City Schools leaders shared details about the district's "whole-child" initiative.

Our district leaders embrace the responsibility to provide more than an academic foundation for the students in our classrooms. We know – we believe in our core – that to truly live our mission to ensure that every student is "ready for tomorrow," we must educate the whole child.

America's public schools have provided the academic foundation for this nation since the days of Benjamin Franklin.

The investment in public education has been significant; the return on this investment has been the strongest economy and nation in the world. From our first one-room school houses to modern facilities that educate thousands of young people under one roof, our schools continue to teach students reading, writing and arithmetic.

Public schools served our nation well during the industrial age. Students were prepared with specific skills, strong work ethics and the ability to follow directions.

As we move from an industrial economy to an information-and-communication economy, public schools must make the transition to a broader skill set.

Not only are we required to teach specific skills, but it also is imperative that we teach students to be self-regulating, self-directed, lifelong learners. Many of the jobs of tomorrow don't exist today.

It is time for us to align and support what is required of us. This begins with the whole child. Not only must we prepare our students with academic skills, but we also must prepare our students with social-emotional learning and provide opportunities for students to explore careers and interests.

The whole-child initiative includes all three: academics, mindset and interests.

In the Hilliard district, preparing students to be ready for tomorrow demands a balance among these three areas.

Academics – along with how we measure academic progress through accountability – are an essential part of our mission.

We support common assessments and use achievement data to drive decisions on curricular and instructional issues. From ACTs to AIR assessments, from NAPE to MAP, our district has a panoply of assessments to measure student progress. These assessments drive our data teams, are clear indicators of student learning and provide important reports to our parents and community.

Mindset – the application of social-emotional learning skills in students' lives – always has been part of the educational process.

Our best teachers always have worked to develop these attributes in students. We are going to take mindset to the next level through intentional alignment of vocabulary, development of curriculum and measurement of student progress.

Through our partnership with Panorama Education, the district is measuring student growth in five specific areas. By gathering data multiple times each year and monitoring progress, we can design curriculum to drive improvement. Alignment is the key: Common expectations and resources create opportunities of efficiency and excellence.

Interests – the deliberate exposure to new opportunities and activities – are the key to student motivation.

We talk with students about discovering their passions; we engage them to match skills with emotion. We encourage creativity and critical thinking; we celebrate teamwork and taking calculated risks. Students in grades 6 through 12 utilize Naviance to explore interests, link them to potential careers and learn about required education and job skills.

Our whole-child approach is in alignment with our ongoing commitment to creating the culture we desire in our school buildings.

We continue our work with Tim Kight, Focus 3 and the R Factor. We live our district values of Stand Up and Own It, Power of the Team and Passion for Growth.

The 2017-18 school year simply is a stop on our continued journey. As we complete this year, we reflect on where we are and we focus on where we are going.

The 2018-19 year will bring new challenges, but we will meet those challenges with a strong culture and commitment to excellence.

We don't plan grand, new initiatives. Instead, we will dive deeper into our whole-child work and culture development. We pursue alignment of our mission and cultivate partnerships between home and school.

The 2018-19 year also will bring an expanded commitment to student well-being and mental health. This is in alignment with our purpose and essential to our mission. Students can't achieve results in the areas of academics, mindset and interests if they are struggling with mental health or other social issues.

Our journey begins and ends with the students in our classrooms. Public schools are the silver bullet; our schools are the key to our future. As Benjamin Franklin reminded us, "An investment in knowledge pays the best interest."

Hilliard City Schools Superintendent John Marschhausen writes the Hilliard Schools Connection guest column for the ThisWeek Hilliard Northwest News.